The Hurdle in Unicode Adoption in Indian Languages – Print and Unicode Fonts

There is a dearth of quality User Generated Content in Indian Languages on Internet. There is User Generated Content, primarily created by techie enthusiasts. The newspapers have now come online. Some of them have actually moved to Unicode text, but many of them are still just converting their print papers to e-papers! Not a great way to putting discoverable content on Internet.

The content that is actually consumed by the Indian Language Market is mostly created for Print. Books, Newspapers etc. And the Unicode adoption there is low. There are historical reasons for that of course. Desktop Publishing Technologies came to publishing before Unicode had become prevalent. So, people in the industry got used to the non-standard fonts. Now if you move to Unicode, all the typists and the editors who work on typed content need to relearn the typing. Obviously, there is resistance. Plus many of the Desktop Publishing Software, still do not support the Complex Text Layout (CTL) needed for displaying Indian Languages correctly (see the previous post for understanding Complex Text Layout).

But there is another issue too. It is difficult to sell the idea to even the people higher up (who could possibly mandate the staff to relearn things and sanction purchase of right software), because good Unicode compatible fonts are not available. Speaking of Hindi, Mangal and Arial Unicode MS are two fonts available on Windows machine. Mangal just does not look good in print. Arial Unicode is slightly better, but people want more choices, while designing. A lot of Unicode fonts available from CDAC and other sites are downright ugly.

I am not sure of why better fonts are not coming to the market. Is it some kind of chicken and egg situation? The users would resist the change and hence not asking for the Unicode fonts. Companies making fonts, therefore, do not feel there is a market for Unicode Fonts. And there probably aren’t those techies around who understand both font design and Indian Languages well enough to create some beautiful, free fonts for Indian Languages.

Print adopting Unicode is very important for meaningful Unicode adoption for Indian Languages. Where do we start?

3 thoughts on “The Hurdle in Unicode Adoption in Indian Languages – Print and Unicode Fonts”

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